Alagi Yorro Jallow

It makes me frustrated knowing that the upper-class or the so- called middle class & the educated people in our society are responsible for repressing ‘Mbindans’ or maids. If they have that attitude, who are we going to formulate the law for? The educated people know that there is a labor law in the country. Do they follow it?

The truth hidden in plain sight indifference to modern-day slavery in the Gambia or elsewhere in Africa trickles down from the top African elites, the middle-or upper class.

The ’Mbindan’ or maids work in some houses of African elite’s face slavery-like working conditions and treatments (rape, low wage, crumbs as food, verbal abuse, no off-days). Events or African slavery in Libya should compel us not to just tweet about it but also to look inside our houses how we treat our maids, the ‘Mbindans’.

Many maids both male and female are treated inhumanly by their employers. It’s such an unorganized market that it’s a pity there is no protection for them. The women, who are primarily employed as housekeepers and babysitters or nannies, reported low pay, little time off work with verbal & physical abuse.
At least 90% of ‘Mbindans’ suffer working excessive hours or days, while more than a third of them either had bad living conditions or low to no salary at all.

These ‘Mbindans’ many of whom live with unjust living and working conditions. But the Gambia’s Labor Code does not cover any of the rights of ‘Mbindans’. Consequently, there is rampant verbal, physical & sexual abuse, financial exploitation, mental torture, & false accusations such as theft. Many maids suffer from food deprivation. These conditions have been normalized due to a lack of legal protection.

“To be a slave is to have no options. The slave cannot appeal to courts or to the rule of law because the essence of slavery is to not be recognized by these institutions. So, the slave has two options: to remain a slave, or to fight back.”

Eradicating modern slavery in a country marred by entrenched poverty is no easy task, especially when most it occurs in the private economy—in our private homes and private businesses—and has seeped into so many aspects of our society today. But if the state’s outlook is any indication of the government’s indifference to tackling modern-day slavery in the Gambia, I would beg to differ and go as far as to say that it is not the lack of laws we are suffering from. It’s the lack of enforcement of the myriad of laws that’s more offensive.

One can’t argue with logic, why our authorities responsible for implementing the law gets absurd. Are laws not created precisely so that accountability can be established? And how do we go about doing without enforcing the law?

Despite the Gambia’s Labor Act and & the suppression of people’s human rights charters, why are forced labor, child labor and human trafficking so widespread in the Gambia?

Slavery comes in many forms: bonded labor, forced labor, forced marriage, etc. Unlike chattel slavery, which once functioned and thrived under the auspices of the law, these types of slavery, despite being illegal, continue to flourish in the present day due to the presence of wide, intricate networks of human traffickers, recruitment agencies, and so on. While it is important to note the differences between the many forms of slavery, the underlying fact is that they are all rooted in coercion.

Although the Gambian Labor Act prohibits children under 14 from being employed, child labor, forced labor & exploiting maids, ‘Mbindans’ one of many faces of modern slavery, remains widespread in the country. But can you blame the people when for the government eradicating modern slavery seems to be an agenda only on paper? “Mbindan Du Jamm”.